Mark Ashfield can’t help but glow as he gives a guided tour of the Superheroes of Victoria’s home base.
Acting as the volunteer group’s very own Wayne Manor or Stark Tower, their Quadra St. headquarters – an 1,100-square-foot space that is charitably rent-free – holds dozens of masks, props and suits that have been making kids giddy for years.
Kids young and old, of course, because Ashfield’s excitement is evident when he discusses some of the group’s upcoming projects, be it an innovative new hammer for Thor or a tweak to the Wonder Woman suit. No stone is left unturned, no pair of spandex shorts left unpressed.
“It’s the little details that kids will pick up,” he explained.
Ashfield is the society’s founder and director, and while their origin story might not be as cool as that of Peter Parker or Clark Kent, it’s still pretty unique.
After moving to Victoria, Ashfield heard about the B.C. Children’s Hospital’s “Be a Superhero” campaign. Having had experience making costumes for friends in the past, he figured it would be cool to make a dozen superhero costumes and have a photo shoot with the kids. By the end of the shoot, parents were asking what the group’s next event would be and the Superheroes of Victoria were born.
“Now we’ve got to the point where we’re an official society,” Ashfield said. “On hand we probably have close to 40 or 45 costumes. We have volunteers that are able to volunteer once or twice a year or once or twice a week and we average about seven or eight events a month … I’d say our volunteer database is somewhere between 280 or 300 people.”
Ashfield helps with some of the costume design and digital work, but this is very much a team effort, and the society’s board is nine members strong.
In addition to the costumes that are made in house, the society also accepts donations from costume enthusiasts and other organizations.
The group’s events can vary from small awareness functions to helping with extended campaigns. They’ve supported organizations like Cops for Cancer, the MS Society and the Easter Seals Drop Zone over the years.
They’ve also hosted two of their own events every summer: Kids Day and the Superhero photo shoot. Those two events have grown in popularity to the point that this summer it was decided the organization would combine them and host one big afternoon of fun at a larger venue.
That will happen Aug. 21 at Westhills Stadium in Langford. While children will still have a chance to mix, mingle and get their pictures taken with their favourite superheroes, they’ll also get an opportunity to hear about the day-to-day lives of some real-life heroes in the region.
“[It’s] teaching kids that local heroes aren’t just what you read in comics. Putting out the fire, saving the innocent, saving the day; that’s been around since before spandex and capes,” Ashfield said.
“Kids realize they can’t grow up to be Superman, but they can grow up to be a firefighter and do all of the same things.”
The Langford event will also feature an arts and crafts station and a dunk tank, and Games2U will have multiple blow-up games and rides for children to enjoy. David Paul will perform songs from his newest album, appropriately titled “Superhero Music”, to wrap up the afternoon.
For more about the organization, visit superheroesofvictoria.org.